Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, and members of the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party today 5th July 2016) paid tribute to the life of 95 year old party veteran and local organiser, Harry Tout, who died yesterday.
Harry, who was born in February 1921, had been a member of the Labour Party since the dark days of the 1930’s slump when as a lad working “in service”” for members of wealthy landowning families in his native County of East Sussex, he rebelled at the huge and growing gap in wealth and opportunity between the “haves” and the “have nots”” in his boyhood town of Lewes.
He served with distinction in the Second World War, fighting Nazism in the Western Desert and later whilst slogging up hundreds of miles along the spine of Italy, in a campaign famous for its ferocity. Harry often recalled how one incident in that campaign – the description of his Eight Army comrades by Tory MP, Nancy Astor as “D-Day Dodgers” – probably added 500,000 votes overnight for Labour in the 1945 General Election.
After the war Harry moved to Grangemouth in Scotland where he met his wife, Cissie. Later he transferred from the Grangemouth chemical works to ICI at Wilton and moved to Guisborough where he lived, latterly as a civil servant with the then DHSS, until a recent move into a nursing home.
Tom said “Harry Tout embodied the soul and ethos in one man. Born into depression, only to end up fighting Fascism and Nazism, he came back from the battle field to rebuild a new Britain. It was the spirit of people like Harry that built the NHS, a welfare state and a fairer nation. His work over the decades for the Labour Party in Guisborough and East Cleveland will be remembered by everyone who worked with him or met him. The true sadness is that many of the social conditions that moulded his beliefs are now with us again afresh. Harry, I know, would cheer on all those now battling these new social evils.”
Bill Suthers, Chair of the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party, said “Harry had a special place in the hearts of local labour Party members and supporters. That is why our Party HQ Building in Guisborough’s Wilson Street is called “Harry Tout House”. Harry had since the 1950’s been a leading member of the local party. A former Mayor of Guisborough and a town magistrate he embodied the civic virtues of his adopted town. Throughout those years he worked tirelessly to keep the Labour Party banner flying high, acting as an unpaid Constituency Secretary for many years and as a branch officer in the Guisborough Ward Party. The news of his passing will be met with sadness by a whole generation of Guisborough folk – regardless of party or vote. Our job now is to live up to Harry’s history and Harry’s values.